Why Cetaphil Isn’t As Awesome As It Seems

cetaphil gentle skin cleanserMany of my clients are surprised when they find out that I don’t love Cetaphil. I mean, it can’t be all bad if your dermatologist recommended it, right?

I generally don’t get worked up over cleansers, simply because they rinse off. Of all the steps in your skin care routine, I’m more concerned about the stuff that stays on your face, like serums and moisturizers. I always tell my clients that as long as it’s getting you clean, not irritating your skin, and not drying your skin out, I’m fine with it. But let’s take a quick look at the ingredients in the cleanser that claims to be “gentle and non-irritating.”

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Water, cetyl alcohol, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, stearyl alcohol, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben.

(from cetaphil.com)

Breaking down the ingredients list is pretty easy. There’s not a lot here. First we see water, which is standard for most cosmetic formulas. Cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol are both fatty alcohols, used for emulsifying and moisturizing.

The next ingredient that catches my attention is sodium lauryl sulfate. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant, meaning it releases oil and dirt from the skin and creates that foamy texture we love so much. The problem is that SLS can be stripping for dry skins (which may explain the inclusion of cetyl and stearyl alcohol to neutralize the stripping effects), and it can also be an irritant. I’ve talked about SLS before, and my number one recommendation for irritated skin is stop using products that contain SLS. So why would you include this in a product that claims to be gentle?

The final ingredients are preservatives, which are three different parabens: methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. While I am not someone who is concerned about parabens as a toxic ingredient, and I believe they are generally safe to use, I do know that parabens are an allergen for a percentage of the population. Because of this, I generally recommend that my clients with hyper-allergic skin avoid products with parabens.

The truth about Cetaphil is that dermatologists recommend it for two reasons. The first reason is that it doesn’t have any of the obvious irritants in it like synthetic fragrances or dyes. But the primary reason your derm may have told you to use Cetaphil is that the makers of Cetaphil ship thousands of samples to dermatologists across the land, making that recommendation easy. Amazingly, dermatologists know more about disorders of the skin than they do about products (generally speaking, of course there are exceptions), and they often have neither the time or the desire to shop the drugstore shelves to figure out what cleanser is best for every skin type and concern you may have. Also, most dermatologists (especially male derms) don’t consider a cleanser’s ability to remove makeup in their recommendation.

My beef with Cetaphil is pretty basic. First, I take issue with any line claiming to be gentle while using the harshest surfactant out there. Second, before I became an esthetician, I tried Cetaphil. I found it drying, and it stung my eyes. Additionally, I think it does a terrible job removing makeup. I hate to use a makeup remover and a cleanser; I want one product to do the whole job. So for me, Cetaphil never cut it. If you absolutely love it, and it’s not irritating your skin, I don’t have a problem with my clients using it. But keep these things in mind, and if you find yourself suffering from dryness or irritation, you may want to swap your cleanser.

 

Speak your mind! Do you love your Cetaphil cleanser? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and tell me what you think!

The Cinderella Effect

cosmetic effect of skin carePeople ask me all kinds of questions about skin care products. There are a few questions that people should ask, but don’t.

People never think to ask about the Cinderella Effect.

The Cinderella Effect is a product that has instant, visible results to the eye or to the touch, but that disappear as soon as you wash the product off. These products often give an immediate smoothing effect, making pores and fine lines seemingly disappear. The skin may feel incredibly smooth. Some products even provide an instant lifting and firming effect.

This effect isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be a nice addition to a product. Who doesn’t need a little help with smoothing and firming? The important thing to ask is, do I also get a long-term effect with this product as well? Make sure to look for your active ingredients to verify that the product is doing more than just temporarily filling in.

If you feel a product and the skin looks and feels smoother instantly, check the label. Is there an ingredient ending in -cone on the label, like silicone or dimethicone? If so, you know that there is a Cinderella effect going on. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other good, effective ingredients, but don’t get swept away with an instant smoothing or lifting when you are looking for a long-term maintenance or repair.

Some products may use polymers that tighten as they dry to create a lifting a firming effect. These products can be tougher to detect in an ingredients list. Make sure to ask questions about how a firming product works.

Skin care products with a Cinderella effect can be fun to have as a part of your routine. They can be great day-to-day, or they can give you that boost you want for a special occasion. I always want my readers to understand exactly what you are getting in terms of results from your skin care products. Don’t be wooed by the immediate benefits, unless that is what you are looking for and know that you are buying. Always remember to ask about the long-term effects as well, to be certain that you’re getting the results you want. [Tweet this!]

 

 

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4 Mistakes Even Beauty Experts Make

I’m on a mission to get good skin care information out there. It’s the main reason I started writing this blog. So I get frustrated when I hear the same beauty myths persisting. Here are a few things that I hear even beauty experts get wrong.  mistakes even beauty experts make

  • Drinking enough water will cure chapped lips and dry skin. [Tweet this!] There are many benefits of drinking water, but sorry, this just isn’t one of them. I hear people say this over and over, and I feel like Debbie Downer every time I say that it won’t. It’s the Salad Dressing Theory. Oil and water are not interchangeable. Drinking more water cannot replenish a lack of oil.
  • Your skin needs to breathe. Your skin doesn’t have lungs. [Tweet this!] Your skin can’t even absorb gases from the outside environment. In fact, it’s hard enough to get your skin to absorb solid nutrients. I even cracked open my super skin nerd text-book Physiology of the Skin for scientific confirmation on this one, and sure enough, Dr. Pugliese has many things to say. First he states that “the skin uses very little oxygen since 90% of the metabolic process in the skin is anaerobic, or does not require oxygen.” He also states that “oxygen is a gas, and gas will diffuse into other gases before it will dissolve into anything else.” Basically, your skin isn’t absorbing the air because the air can’t penetrate the skin. It’s not breathing. And no amount of makeup or lotion will change that your skin doesn’t breathe.
  • Fair skin is sensitive skin. I’ve had dozens of estheticians insist that I am sensitive, simply because my skin is light. The color of the skin doesn’t dictate sensitivities. Fair skin has a tendency to be thinner, but even that doesn’t mean that doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be more sensitive. I go back to my soapbox about what sensitive skin even means. I define sensitive skin as someone who has frequent reactions or many allergies. Skin of all colors can be allergic to an ingredient. Skin of all colors can have an adverse reaction to a product or get an irritation.
  • Products with alcohol will dry out your skin. We need to split hairs here. If you’re looking at a toner with SD alcohol or denatured alcohol in it, yes, it will probably dry you out. If you’re oily or acne prone, you might need that drying or extra help killing bacteria. If you’re dry, it may not be a good idea. If you are looking at a cream, chances are that product has cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, or stearyl alcohol in it. These forms of alcohol are all fatty alcohols, meaning that they are actually moisturizing. I don’t know enough about chemistry to be able to explain why these different ingredients are still all alcohols (chemistry experts, chime in!), but I promise you that fatty alcohols are important in a moisturizer and won’t dry you out.

Have you ever heard any skin care myths that you know aren’t true, but you hear everywhere? Shout out in the comments and tell me what they are!

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The Law of Diminishing Skin Care Returns

My job is super fun. I get to spend the whole day talking and thinking about skin care and skin care products. I get to recommend skin care products that I like. I get free skin care products to try and judge (which is a great way to get judgy feelings out of my system, since I try hard not to judge people).

But sometimes my job is disappointing. I feel hopeful when I look at a new product. I can’t wait to see my skin magically transformhave you stopped seeing a difference in your skin care products? when I apply it. And I feel frustrated when that skin care is just okay. I am disappointed. I want instant results too!

I’ve been trying a new skin care line for work. I want to tell me boss that’s it’s amazing and that we should buy it immediately. But even though I like many of the products, I was a little disappointed. Couldn’t my skin glow just a bit more? Couldn’t it look a bit better?

Then I realized that I am a victim of the Law of Diminishing Skin Care Returns. If you’ve ever studied economics, you’re familiar with the original law. Applied to skin care, it means that when you use lots of good product, you don’t notice as much when you add another good product. Essentially, if your skin is already in great shape, it becomes harder to get a dramatic result. [Tweet this!]

Let’s look at a real life example. If you are using a bar soap, and you change to a cleanser that is less stripping, you’ll automatically see an improvement in your skin. You’ll notice your hydration will improve and your texture will soften. If you add a well formulated moisturizer, you’ll see even more changes. Now add a serum, and maybe you’ll decrease breakouts or improve your glow. But every product you add will change your skin less and less. The better the condition of your skin, the less you’ll notice the improvements. If you change from one moisturizer with great ingredients to another with different great ingredients, you may not notice the difference. Does this mean your skin care isn’t working? No, it’s still working… you just can’t see as much a change because your skin already looks great.

It’s hard to gauge good skin care if your skin is already healthy and glowing. We become immune to the changes in the mirror, and we naturally focus on our flaws. It’s easy to see this small line or that brown spot when the rest of your skin is smooth and glowing. Take one giant step back from the mirror, cut yourself a break, and remember that if your skin already looks amazing… miracle products become harder and harder to find.

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How To Find The Best Skin Care

It’s the eternal beauty quest… what is the best skin care? Who makes the best moisturizer? What cleanser is best? In mythe best skin care retail sales days, shoppers would come up to me and ask me, “What is the best skin care?” I would quietly ask them to follow me down a dark hallway, past all the other moisturizers. We’d pass the troll that guards the hidden door into a secret room, where there on a table, under a single beam of light, sits one single jar of the only good moisturizer in the store, which I’ve only showed to this customer because they asked for the best. When you use it, you’ll never break out, all your wrinkles will disappear, your checking account will never be empty, and your house will always be clean.

Just kidding.

There’s no troll.

Perfect moisturizers don’t exist. They don’t exist because everyone has a different opinion on what the perfect moisturizer should be like. So the question should not be “What’s the best skin care?” The question should be, “What’s the best skin care for me?” [Tweet this!]

For example, I was helping a client the other day whose primary complaint was that she was breaking out often. I asked her what she was using and she told me she was using a well known brand. I asked if she was using a product targeted for acne, like a treatment serum or even a cleanser, and she said no. She was using products that might be generally good, just not good for her, because they don’t target her primary concern.

So how do you find a skin care product that’s good-for-you? Here are a few tips.

  • Decide what your primary skin care concerns are. This is the magic question. If you could change one thing about your skin, what would it be? If there’s a bunch of things, prioritize your list. You’ll probably be able to treat a few things at once, but you want to make sure that your primary concern will be targeted.
  • Look at peripheral benefits of the skin care products. Do you want paraben-free? Do you want a natural skin care product? Do you want a moisturizer that fights acne and wrinkles?
  • Set a price. Remember that if you want a product that has many specific features, you may need to be willing to spend more. What is most important? It might be nice to be paraben free, but you might not be able to find skin care that fights acne and wrinkles, has no parabens, and is less than $30. You may have to decide which feature is the one that can be sacrificed.
  • Feel it and smell it. Textural differences and fragrances are very important. If you don’t enjoy using the product because it feels greasy or smells funny, you won’t use it. Your skin care is guaranteed to fail if it just sits in a drawer. [Tweet this!]

I want to know. What is most important to you when you buy a moisturizer or other skin care product? Do you make decisions based on price? Ingredients? A friend’s recommendation? Tell me in the comments below!

 

 

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Truth in Advertising: A Look At Natural Skin Care Claims

I’ve been talking about natural skin care recently, and on Monday, I talked about how to tell if a product is really natural. Since natural skin care claims aren’t regulated, it’s up to us to decide what natural means. As I was walking around my local drugstore, buying my 3 million count bottle of allergy medicine, I looked at a few products that made natural claims. Here I’m going to share with you my thought process when I review a skin care product for myself or recommend it for a client.

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing LotionI looked at some Aveeno products first. Aveeno can be hit-or-miss to me. Sometimes their ingredient choice disappoints me, so I make sure to check before I buy. The first product was a body moisturizer, the Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion, which claims to moisturize for 24 hours and protect and prevent dry skin. It also claims a unique oatmeal formula, which sounds like natural skin care to me.

The first ingredient I see listed is dimethicone, listed as an active ingredient in the Drug Facts panel. Dimethicone is an ingredient found in many moisturizers, foundation primers, and prescriptions. It Aveeno Daily Moisturizer ingredientsprovides barrier protection and slip. It’s a great ingredient, but I don’t consider it natural. Looking at the inactive ingredients, I see oat flour listed (avena sativa kernel flour). So here is evidence of the unique oatmeal complex.

The next four ingredients could be derived naturally, but they are usually synthetic ingredients. Glycerin can be natural or synthesized as well. We don’t know which it is. Petrolatum is a great ingredient for repairing the barrier function of the skin, but also not something I’d consider natural (even though it does technically come from the earth).

Overall, this product doesn’t meet my standards for natural skin care. A closer look at their packaging only claims active naturals, not entire product naturals, and the oatmeal complex is definitely there. Sneaky, sneaky. The product will be effective as a moisturizer for super dry and potentially irritated skin, but this is a perfect example of a regular product masquerading as a natural skin care product.

 

Neutrogena Naturals Multi-Vitamin Nourishing MoisturizerThe next product I looked at was a newer product from Neutrogena, the Neutrogena Naturals Multivitamin Nourishing Moisturizer. I’ll admit that Neutrogena got one big eye roll from me when I heard about their natural skin care line. I don’t have a problem with Neutrogena in general, but it’s my least favorite of the drug store lines. Clients always tell me that they use Neutrogena for their sensitive skin, and I don’t think it’s all that friendly for sensitive skin. So I had my eye roll ready when I flipped this box over to inspect what Neutrogena Naturals Multi-Vitamin Nourishing MoisturizerNeutrogena was calling “natural.”

I have to admit when I’m wrong. I was impressed with this Neutrogena moisturizer and the integrity of the ingredients. I like that they include the source for all their ingredients, letting us know that they’ve been naturally derived. I do have a couple of complaints though. I wish that they hadn’t included fragrance, which can be seen clearly listed down towards the bottom. Fragrance isn’t a great thing for sensitive skin. This product has taken great lengths to formulate without a bunch of unpopular ingredients (parabens, phthalates, dyes), so I don’t know why you’d then add a fragrance. I also hesitate to call this a “multivitamin” moisturizer, since the only real vitamin I see listed is vitamin E (tocopherol) and some extra botanicals, mostly as the very last ingredients.

Garnier Nutritioniste Ultra Lift Anti Wrinkle MoisturizerThe final product I looked at was a product from Garnier, which I’ve always thought of as a natural skin care line. I use a lot of Garnier hair care, but I hadn’t looked at of one of their skin care products recently. I see the ads for this pro-retinol from nature all the time, so I picked up the Garnier Nutritioniste Ultra-Lift Anti-Wrinkle Firming Moisturizer with SPF 15 to see what it was all about.

I flipped over the back of the box and the first thing I noticed was the Drug Facts panel with theGarnier Nutritioniste Ultra Lift Anti Aging Moisturizer, sunscreens sunscreens listed. The three sunscreens listed are all chemical filters. I have mixed feelings about chemical sunscreens, and current research is also mixed. For a natural skin care product, I think that a mineral filter is a better option, since it is both natural and effective.

Garnier Nutritioniste Ultra Lift Anti Aging Moisturizer, ingredientsNext I looked at the inactive ingredients section to see what else is in here. I got about a third of the way down before I spotted my first botanical, argan oil (argania spinosa kernel extract). Since ingredients are listed from the highest percentage to the lowest, this isn’t looking good for a “natural” product. I see some rice protein and some natural fragrance components (linalool). The pro-retinol from nature is the fifth ingredient from the end, which makes me doubt its efficacy. In order to get the benefits of retinol, you need a more significant percentage.

I was surprised and disappointed as I looked at these ingredients. I thought Garnier was supposed to be natural skin care. I mean, all the packaging is green? Yes, I fell for the marketing as well! Another look at the front of the package cleared up my questions. Garnier only claims that the retinol is from nature… not the entire product. We find another normal product capitalizing on a natural trend.

What do you think? Have you ever bought a product expecting it to be natural, only to find out that it was just clever marketing?

 

 

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How To Tell If Your Natural Skin Care Is The Real Deal

how to tell if your skin care is naturalEveryone wants natural skin care these days, and I’ve talked about the fact that there is no regulation for this term before. My readers are savvy skin care shoppers, so I want to help you figure out if a brand is really natural, or just capitalizing on a trend.

Since there is no regulation for the word natural, you must decide what natural skin care means to you. Does it need to be paraben free? Are you simply looking for more botanical ingredients or essential oils? Do you have other ingredients that you want to avoid, like petrochemicals, dyes, or sodium lauryl sulfate? I have my own idea of what natural means, and I’m sharing it here. It starts by flipping over the box and looking at the ingredients.

  • High percentage of natural ingredients and botanical extracts. When you look at the ingredients, do you see a large number of botanicals? Are there only a few words that look like chemicals? Some of those chemically looking words can still be derived from natural sources, so you may want to look them up in a ingredients dictionary like A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter.
  • Low to no synthetic preservatives. Skin care products must be preserved some way. There’s really no way around it. Mostly what I’m looking for here is how many preservatives are they using? If they’re using six parabens, I doubt their commitment to being a natural skin care line.
  • No synthetic fragrance. This can be hard to figure out from the ingredient list since even a certain amount of essential oils must be listed as perfume. Your nose will tell you if the product smells like botanical ingredients or a bottle of perfume. When you check the ingredients, does the product smell like the oils and botanicals listed? Beware the product that smells like nothing. Every ingredient, especially botanicals, has a scent. If your product smells like nothing, that may mean that something, like a masking fragrance, has been added to remove or neutralize an unpleasant smell.
  • No synthetic dyes. Check the ingredients list. See anything that looks like Red 40 or Blue 9? Again, I doubt just how natural that natural skin care is if there are dyes.
  • Corporate transparency. I like to see companies openly sharing their practices. It is still marketing, but I respect companies that are willing to pull back the curtain and let us look behind the scenes. I was recently browsing the Tata Harper website, and I noticed that they offer percentages of the organic ingredients for each product. Ren Skincare lists where they derive some of their ingredients that look more like chemicals, which is also helpful if you have allergies. If you’re gung-ho to use the most natural skin care possible, call the company and ask about their ingredients. If they won’t answer all your questions, they may not be as natural as they claim.

You’ll need to make your own decisions about what you want in your skin care and what you consider natural. My goal is to put enough information out there to help you make your own informed decisions.

 

 

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Getting Real About Natural Skin Care

what does natural mean for skin care?Natural skin care is all the rage. It seems every time I turn around, there’s another brand launching a natural line. Unfortunately, this term is not regulated. There is no agency that checks to see if every product that claims to be natural fits any particular guidelines. So how do you know what is natural skin care and what is not? Let’s get real about it.

Natural can really mean anything. Some popular features of natural skin care products are that they are paraben free or fragrance free. Many natural skin care products use a higher concentration of botanical ingredients. This could mean a few extra botanical extracts added to a preexisting formula, or it could mean that the majority of the ingredients are botanical. Again, there is no regulation about what natural means.

Natural does not guarantee anything. It does not mean that it is organic. It also does not mean that it is mostly natural or botanical. It also doesn’t guarantee that the ingredient is good for your skin, even if it is natural. Mineral oil can technically be natural, as can water. It definitely doesn’t mean that the product is automatically better for sensitive skin.

This confusing term means that you need to be an extra savvy consumer. It means that you need to decide what natural skin care means to you. [Tweet this!] Do you worry about preservatives? Do you want a large percentage of natural ingredients? What about fragrance? You may find it helpful to invest in a cosmetics ingredients dictionary to look up some common ingredients. My favorite dictionary is A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter.

The key to the truth about a product lies in flipping over the package and reading the ingredients list. What is on that list? The rule that you shouldn’t eat anything you can’t pronounce is great for food, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to skin care. Many ingredients that are good for the skin are difficult to pronounce, and some companies get tricky by putting the Latin name for a botanical on the list. It takes work to decipher. If natural skin care is important for you, it should be worth it.

There are many reputable natural brands that make great skin care. There are tons of natural skin care products that I love. The great thing about the current skin care market is that you have plenty of options for whatever you want. I only want to help you find what is most important for you.

 

 

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Behind the Buzz

marketing buzzwords for skin careThe buzz in the beauty industry can completely overwhelming these days. Every product screams at you from the shelves. So how do you know what is just beauty buzz and what you should be buying into?

Natural

So many brands are claiming to be natural, but unfortunately, there is absolutely no regulatory body that oversees this claim. Any line with botanical extracts can claim to be natural these days. It’s up to you to decide what you consider to be natural. Do you mean preservative free? Free of synthetic fragrance? Free of synthetic ingredients all together? When I look for a natural product, I look for the majority of the ingredients to be botanically derived and for a product that is free of synthetic dyes, perfumes, and preservatives.

Oil Free

Oil-free is just what it says- free of all oils, even botanical oils. Oil-free is best for super oily skin types. But ultimately you should be shopping by texture. Super oily skins need light weight lotions. Combination skin types can use more medium-weight lotions or creams, depending on the time of year. Dry skins can comfortably use a heavier cream. Even acne-prone skins can benefit from some oils, since not all acne occurs on super oily skin. I generally recommend avoiding mineral oils, which can lead to clogging. Botanical oils are healthy for many skin types and don’t necessarily need to be avoided.

Fragrance Free

This is one of the most confusing aspects of beauty products. Technically this means that there are no synthetic fragrances added to the product. It’s helpful if you are one of the many people who are allergic to synthetic perfumes. This may not mean that the product smells like nothing. Every ingredient in the product has a natural scent to it, so the final product will smell like the blend of those ingredients. Some products that don’t use additional fragrance can smell medicinal or unpleasant in some way (does anyone else remember the Perricone products circa 2006? Phew!). Here’s where it gets super tricky. Many products that smell like nothing have actually added a masking fragrance to neutralize an otherwise unpleasant smell, and that product can still be labeled fragrance free. So check your ingredients well if fragrance is a concern for you. In natural products, it can be even more complicated. If a company uses a certain number of essential oils, they must label it as fragrance on the ingredient list even if the essential oils are used for therapeutic benefits. It’s a lot to take in, and again there are not many regulations for this term and how it’s used. In this case, I ignore the packaging and use my nose. If it smells like a bottle of perfume, I skip the product. If the product is botanically based, I check the ingredients and see if they have essential oils listed.

Follow me on Twitter where I tweet about the buzz words I see under the hashtag #beautybuzz. And leave me a note in the comments about any beauty buzz you’d like me to decipher.

 

 

Speak your mind! What beauty buzz do you hear? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and tell me what you think!